May 16, 2008

FL: County saves, developer profits: Guess who pays?
Blackwater’s return – editorial
PA: Turnpike bid race narrows
IN: Meeting hears welfare system complaints
NV: Toll road plan ok’d

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News Summaries
FL: County saves, developer profits: Guess who pays?
Brenda Crenshaw wants to move her private school in southwest Orange
County. But to do so, she is going to have to pay a group of developers
led by KB Home more than half a million dollars to buy access to public
roads. Crenshaw’s predicament stems from an unorthodox deal Orange
County leaders made with a group of developers this past year to widen
a portion of County Road 535. Orange is so strapped for transportation
money that when the developers agreed to pay for most of the
road-widening project, the county jumped at the offer. The goal was to
unclog traffic enough to allow the developers’ stalled projects to be
built. But there’s a potentially profitable clause written into the
contract. The widening, which is under construction, will allow the
road to handle more traffic than the developers’ plans will create. The
deal with the county gave the developers the right to essentially sell
off that extra traffic capacity. A key architect of the road deal,
according to county records, is Orlando attorney and developer Pat
Christiansen, who would not comment. Christiansen is a Republican
fundraiser who was finance chairman of Jacobs’ re-election campaign in
2004 and co-chaired County Mayor Rich Crotty’s 2006 campaign.
Orlando Sentinel

Blackwater’s return – editorial
There is no good reason that military policemen or other specialist
units could not protect diplomats. After all, the skills Blackwater
personnel have were often learned in military service (its founder is
an ex-Navy SEAL). Yet it is clear that the Iraq war has become a gravy
train for private contractors. And with the war having gone on longer
than U.S. involvement in World War II, the military is strained enough
without taking on a new job. Sen. John Kerry, the Democrat from
Massachusetts who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s
Middle East subcommittee, has called for hearings on how Blackwater,
which is under grand jury investigation, should be given this no-bid
security contract. It’s a worthy call, but in a sense we already know
the answer: Because this is how the Bush administration’s arrogance and
incompetency feed the Iraq fiasco. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PA: Turnpike bid race narrows
A financial consortium once thought to be the leading candidate to
lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike has apparently dropped out of the
running. Spain-based Cintra and Australia-based Macquarie
Infrastructure Group, which bought rights to the Chicago Skyway in 2005
and the Indiana Toll Road in 2006 for a total of $5.6 billion, have
decided not to increase their bid for the state toll road being offered
by Gov. Ed Rendell as a means of generating more funds for roads,
bridges and transit. While tomorrow is the deadline for final bids, the
Rendell administration said the results won’t be released until next
week. If the high bidder meets Mr. Rendell’s goal, he will seek speedy
legislative approval to privatize the turnpike and amend the
controversial Act 44 transportation funding bill to halt efforts to
convert I-80 to a toll road. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
IN: Meeting hears welfare system complaints
Indiana began privatizing welfare delivery last fall in a pilot program
that involved a dozen central and eastern Indiana counties, including
Delaware County. Whereas each county previously had its own welfare
office, most operations in the 12-county region have been moved to a
Marion call center operated by IBM Corp. and Affiliated Computer
services. The objective of the measure was to reduce welfare fraud and
improve service to clients, according to Roob. Since the transition,
however, social service agencies have reported an increase in
complaints from people who have lost their food stamps and Medicaid
health care coverage. The Star Press (Muncie)
NV: Toll road plan ok’d
A proposal to allow for privatized toll lanes in Las Vegas as a way to
help reduce a huge funding shortfall for Nevada highway projects was
endorsed Thursday by the Nevada Transportation Board. Private
investment would cover nearly all of the costs of the project.
Toll-road legislation died in the 2007 session. Advocates of the
public-private partnerships for highway projects include former U.S.
Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, now a lobbyist for investment firm
Goldman Sachs. Gephardt has said the public-private deals aren’t
limited to toll roads, and light-rail ventures also are part of the
equation. While there’s some resistance to such deals, he added that to
many tax-wary voters they represent "the least worst alternative."
Analysts from the investment bank previously told the transportation
subcommittee that the demonstration project would cost $1.4 billion, of
which 88 percent could be paid for by private entities. The
public-private partnership would then allow private investors to reap
the proceeds from the tolls to pay back their investment at a fair rate
of return, which was judged to be 13 percent. Las Vegas Review Journal